Feudal War in Russia in the Second Quarter of the 15th Century

Feudal War in Russia in the Second Quarter of the 15th Century


an internecine war between the grand prince of Moscow Vasilii II Vasil’evich and the Zvenigorod and Galich appanage princes—Vasilii’s uncle Prince Iurii Dmitrievich and Iurii’s sons Vasilii Iur’evich Kosoi and Dmitrii Shemiaka. There were two principal causes of the war: (1) the growing conflict among the feudal lords over the method and form of state centralization in the face of Tatar raids, Lithuanian expansion, and the nascent class struggle between the peasants and townspeople and (2) the emerging conflict of interests resulting from the political and economic consolidation of both the grand principalities—Moscow, Tver’, and Riazan’—and the appanage principalities, including Zvenigorod, Galich, and Mozhaisk.

After the death of the Muscovite grand prince Vasilii I Dmitrievich in 1425, Vasilii II and Prince Iurii emerged as claimants to the grand prince’s throne. From 1425 to 1431 they waged the struggle by military and diplomatic means, with the participation of the Golden Horde and Lithuania. The decisive confrontations took place in 1433 and 1434. Despite military successes, Prince Iurii failed to gain the support of the majority of feudal lords in the principality of Moscow and thereby lost the throne.

During the second stage of the war, the conflict spread beyond the Moscow Principality, to the central and northern regions of the country. After Prince Iurii’s death in 1434, Vasilii Kosoi, supported by the grand prince of Tver’ Boris Aleksandrovich, emerged as Vasilii II’s chief rival. In 1436, Vasilii Kosoi was defeated, taken prisoner, and blinded.

In the third stage of the war, which began in 1441, Vasilii II’s opponent was Dmitrii Shemiaka. Allied with the appanage prince Ivan Andreevich of Mozhaisk and supported by the grand prince of Tver’, Shemiaka seized Moscow in February 1446 and captured Vasilii II, whom he blinded and exiled to Uglich. During this period, the class struggle intensified and found expression in a number of city uprisings, rampant brigandage, and the mass flight of peasants from their feudal lords. Shemiaka failed to gain the support of the majority of the feudal lords, who were dissatisfied with the weakening of central authority. In the fall of 1446 he released Vasilii II to an appanage principality in Vologda. Vasilii, however, entering into an alliance with the grand prince of Tver’, renewed military activities. By December 1446, Moscow was under his authority. The struggle still continued in the central regions of the country and in the northern regions, where it lasted until 1450, when Shemiaka, allied with Novgorod, was defeated near Galich. The war ended in 1453, when Shemiaka died.

As a result of the feudal war, the appanage principalities in the principality of Moscow were almost completely abolished and the balance of forces in northeastern Rus’ shifted decisively to the advantage of Moscow, thus creating the conditions necessary for the centralization of the state.


Cherepnin, L. V. Obrazovanie Russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstvav XIV–XV vv. Moscow, 1960.
Cherepnin, L. V. K voprosu o roli gorodov v protsesse obrazovaniia Russkogo tsentralizovannogo gosudarstva. In Gowda feodal’noi Rossii: Sb. st. pamiati N. V. Ustiugova. Moscow, 1966.